Change is coming to Ontario’s streets on Sept. 1, when the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act — legislation passed back in June — officially comes into force.
In most cases, the legislation sharpens the punitive teeth of current laws. Penalties for distracted driving go from a fine in the $60-$500 range, for example, to a solid $490 swat, plus the loss of three demerit points. It’s what the new laws mean for cyclists, though, that has been generating the most buzz.
An issue for cyclists in Ontario has long been the disproportionate severity of penalties for drivers, with dooring, for example, carrying a fine of only $110 until now — something many feel is wildly out of step with a dooring’s potential impact. Under the new laws, it’s a fixed penalty at $365 plus three demerit points per offense. Other all-too-common problems experienced by riders are also reflected in the updated provincial laws: allowing a metre’s clearance when passing cyclists, for example, is now required, and enforceable with a $110 fine and two demerit points. In community safety zones, the fine jumps to $180. Currently, buzzing a cyclist in a truck doesn’t carry a penalty of any kind.
But the laws go both ways, of course. Without proper lights on your ride, you can also be facing a $110 ticket under the new legislation, something whose penalty is currently set at $20.
The new laws more equally establish cycling as a vital part of traffic, enforcement and all. Announcing the legislation earlier this week, Stephen Del Duca, Ontario’s minister of transportation, said, “Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. We also need to keep our cyclists, some of the most vulnerable road users, safe.”